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Competency hearing set in Slater case

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Defense attorneys will try next month to prove Justin Shane Slater incompetent to stand trial for the June slayings of his brother and ex-girlfriend.

Justin Shane Slater

Slater appeared Friday before Judge John Prosser in Frederick County Circuit Court with his lawyers, public defender Tim Coyne and former capital defense attorney Joseph Flood.

Slater, 24, stands charged in Frederick County with one count of capital murder of two or more people in three years involving the deaths of his brother, Gregory Scott Slater Jr., 28, of Valley Mill Road, and ex-girlfriend Kayleigh Marie Plamondon, 22, of White Post. The younger Slater also has a preliminary hearing Oct. 24 in Frederick County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on charges of first-degree murder and a firearm offense related to the June 10 shooting death of his brother.

Authorities found Slater's brother dead in the Valley Mill Road home June 11, and then Plamondon's body two days later in a home in Lost City, W.Va. Court documents state Slater has admitted to both slayings.

Clarke County authorities have charged Slater with capital murder of two people in three years -- pertaining to the deaths of Plamondon and Gregory Slater -- as well as use of a firearm in commission of the offense, credit card theft and breaking and entering of a home at night with the intent to commit murder.

But whether Slater's charges will ever go to trial remains uncertain.

Prosser scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Oct. 23, where Slater's attorneys are expected to argue that their client is mentally incompetent to stand trial. Prosecutors also will have the chance to rebut their claims.

The defense attorneys told the judge they anticipate calling at least two doctors who evaluated Slater to testify as to his competency. Flood and Coyne indicated they may also call on witnesses from the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center who may have witnessed his behavior while incarcerated.

Coyne said he would have to investigate further whether calling any jail inmates may pose a conflict of interest if he had represented such a potential witness in the past.

Prior to that date, Slater's attorneys will have the chance Oct. 2 to present and argue motions related to the evidentiary hearing.

Also on Friday, Slater appeared with his attorneys in Winchester Circuit Court, where he stands charged with attempted escape, two counts of attempting to disarm jail officers while at Winchester Medical Center and two counts of assaulting the jailers.

Coyne and Flood asked Wetsel to allow Slater's competency hearings for his charges in the city and in Clarke County to be consolidated and handled in Prosser's court. Wetsel granted the request.

The defense attorneys filed a motion Thursday in the city court to declare their client incompetent to stand trial. They filed a similar motion in Clarke County.

Mental health staff at the jail have reported Slater's "behavior to be quite erratic and bizarre and the view that he is in need of inpatient treatment," the motion states. Slater was recently prescribed an anti-psychotic medication to reduce his more acute symptoms, following a July 3 incident at Winchester Medical Center when authorities claim he tried to escape their custody, attempted to take their weapons and assaulted officers.

Slater has been declared incompetent to stand trial by two experts -- one hired by the defense and one appointed by Prosser. In the motion in the city court, the defense argues that while Slater's charges are not capital offenses, the alleged offenses are related to the counts he has in Clarke and Frederick counties.

Flood and Coyne then asked Wetsel to reverse his decision late last month to allow the media to videotape or photograph Slater during court proceedings.

"We want a fair trial," Flood said. "If people see [Slater] in shackles and a jail uniform, it would undermine his right [to a fair trial]."

To bolster their argument, Flood told the judge that Prosser had twice denied similar media requests.

Flood told Wetsel their client has exhibited signs of mental health problems in court and showing these on television or in print also could infringe on his constitutional rights.

Winchester Commonwealth's Attorney Alex R. Iden told the judge he had no position on the media request.

Wetsel granted the defense attorneys' request to bar cameras in the courtroom except during Slater's trial -- if and when it occurs.

Slater currently has jury trials scheduled for December in Frederick and Clarke county circuit courts.

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